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Stepping up

Some weeks we have to print a lot of bad news, and some weeks we get to print a lot of good news.
Last week was one of those good weeks.
The Harrison County Community Foundation, First Harrison Bank and Community First Bank all lived up to their names. The Foundation donated $500,000 and the two banks contributed $75,000 each in matching funds to the YMCA of Harrison County, hoping that other institutions, businesses, families or individuals would also come forward with contributions to a great cause. The YMCA and the Friends of Harrison County Youth, are now constructing an impressive health and recreation facility and playing fields in Corydon that will be available to all citizens of the county, young and old, healthy and infirm, rich and poor, for many years to come. It will be a showcase and a centerpiece of Harrison County.
The problem was that the YMCA and the Friends had reached an impasse of sorts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were still needed to be raised to pay off the big YMCA building and the baseball, softball and soccer fields that comprised Keller Sports Park nearby. Bloomington billionaires Bill and Gayle Cook agreed to come to town and donated $100,000 as a challenge to local YMCA supporters. It looked like fund-raising was back on track.
However, about the same time, the struggling Keller Manufacturing Co., which had leased the Keller sports fields for only one buck a year, decided it needed to sell its valuable 44 acres of real estate valued for at least $1 million. After some negotiations, however, Keller and the YMCA settled on $500,000, so, suddenly, the YMCA needed more money. That’s when the Foundation and the two banks stepped up. The banks had earlier donated a combined $110,000 to the YMCA effort, and the Foundation had contributed a whopping $2.3 million to the YMCA. That’s huge, of course, but that’s what the Foundation is for, to support worthy projects that benefit many people. And, while we’re at it, let’s thank Caesars Indiana for generating those dollars that go to the Foundation.
The Foundation and the banks made us particularly happy at this newspaper by saying they would make the pledges if the facility would be named after our friend, leader, advisor, and governor, Frank O’Bannon. Frank died Sept. 13 at age 73, five days after a massive stroke. He grew up in the part of town in which the YMCA is being built. He was an athlete in high school and college, a sportsman and a naturalist. He would love what’s being built there inside a loop of Big Indian Creek.
Frank loved his community and he served it passionately ‘ probably more passionately than any one of us will ever know. So we think the Foundation and bank leaders have come up with a great idea for a memorial, and we want to thank them for it.
We were also glad to report last week that the directors of the Harrison County Public Library decided to name their genealogical and local history library in the old Andrew Carnegie building after Harrison County’s greatest genealogist, Frederick Porter Griffin, another native son who has done himself proud by giving much of his life to others.
Harrison County history is Griffin’s passion. If you don’t know much about your family’s local history, he does. He’s been collecting information about your family and his family almost all his adult life. It’s something he learned from his mother. Over the years, Griffin, now 88, has collected information and articles, sorted them all out, filed them away methodically, and written about it in several valuable publications. Fred Griffin is a genealogical goldmine.
It’s nice to remember people who have made great contributions to their community by naming institutions after they have entered that eternal sleep, but it’s also really nice to thank these people while they are still alive. We should do more of this.